EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSSoon-To-Be Moms Say Concerns And Frustrations About Water Safety Continue
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported: Feb. 18, 2014 11:42 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 19, 2014 11:40 AM EST
CHARLESTON, W.Va (Kallie Cart) - Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced Tuesday that the state of emergency for West Virginia will soon be lifted. But many say they feel like the water crisis is far from over. Likely no one's life has been impacted more than soon-to-be moms who are already worried about the baby they are carrying, and now worrying about the safety of their water. A worry they say hasn't gone away.
"You just worry. You can sit at night and think about all the things outside of just the regular things you think about when it's your first kid," Shanda Witt of Charleston said. She is expecting her first child in early April.
Even though more than a month has passed since the massive MCHM spill contaminated the water supply of some 300,000 people in 9 counties, pregnant women like Shanda say their concerns have not passed. She still isn't using the water for anything.
A 5-gallon bucket by her kitchen sink is where she cleans dishes, washes her hands and brushes her teeth. And a make-shift system consisting of a pot of water, heated up on the stove, siphoned into a camping shower, hung in her bathroom, is now how she showers. All filled up with water hauled in from areas outside of the contamination zone.
An inconvenience, yes, but Shanda says it's the only way she feels she can protect her unborn baby boy.
"We question, should we even stay in this area? Is it something that is going to be safe for our kid 5-years down the road, is it something that is going to be safe for our kid 10-years down the road?" Shanda said.
And she's not alone, Eyewitness News sat down with a group of moms-to-be to talk about life after the spill.
"I don't feel safe raising my family here now because it doesn't seem like anyone else is concerned about the safety of the people living here," Michelle Ellis of South Charleston said.
"I feel like we are kind of on our own," Sarah Lundgren said.
Sarah and Alix Olitzkyrah of Charleston, who are both about 38-weeks pregnant, and Michelle, who's in her second trimester, all say they are even more frustrated and concerned now than they were day one of the water crisis.
"I feel like everyone is putting money above the health of the citizens," Michelle said. "Raise a 2-year-old and be pregnant at the same time and let me see you drink the water and give it to your kids and not worry about the consequences."
Alix and Michelle are using the water on a limited basis, Michelle saving the potable uncontaminated water to bathe her 2-year-old in.
Sarah is still going back and forth to Teays Valley several times a week to take a shower.
"I just feel like I gave up so much through this whole pregnancy to make sure everything was going to be ok and he was going to be healthy and I wouldn't have to worry. I gave up fake sugar and caffeine, just to have our water poisoned," Sarah said.
Two days after the water company started declaring areas safe to use the water, the CDC sent out a warning to pregnant moms advising them not to drink the water. Then, weeks later, said that warning was more of a recommendation to empower women to think about their own health.
That mixed message, the lack of research about the long-term health effects of MCHM and the fact that the CDC won't say the water is "safe" and only describe it as "appropriate" for use, is a major frustration for these moms-to-be.
"Could you look at me in the eye and tell me that you are 100% sure that it is safe for me and my child to drink this water?" Alix said.
Now, these moms say they feel helpless - abandoned by those in charge - and it's up to them to ensure the health of their children.
"I can't confidently raise my family here and nobody else seems to care about the long term effects, about all the things I worry about on a daily basis, it seems like nobody in any place of power cares at all right now," Sarah said. "If they'll ever care? Maybe in 10 years, maybe in two years, too late, they'll start to care."
And the moms say their next concern will be when their little ones arrive, how they use the water with them.
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